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The Hospitality Laundry at Grove Park Inn: A brand born in the lap of luxury

Under an expanse of sky, spread across 161 lush acres in the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains, is a place whose whole meaning is relaxation: The Grove Park Inn Resort and Spa, the largest resort in scenic Asheville. With 510 rooms, indoor and outdoor pools, six tennis courts, three restaurants and an 18-hole golf course, the place is pure luxury.

To most laundries, extensive luxury spells nonstop work. Indeed, to keep thousands of terry spa robes fluffy, sheets silky and hotel and restaurant linens flawless, 40 full-time and 30 part-time and seasonal employees run The Hospitality Laundry at Grove Park Inn from 7am until 2am during peak season (June-December), and from 7am until 5:30pm during the off season, seven days a week.

Yet that isn’t to say the laundry entirely misses out on the atmosphere: "I drive right between two [golf] holes to get to work every morning," smiles Bill Cummings, General Manager and Executive Facilities Services Manager. The laundry is in a 9,000-foot former golf equipment building, directly in the center of the course.

Cummings understands luxury--or at least, how to provide it. "In 2000, we started pursuing a commercial contract,” he says. “In 2003, I bought them out and took over their routes, so I’m now directly providing for 11 country clubs or restaurants. At the beginning of 2003, we also took on the third-largest resort in Asheville, and we just started doing the second-largest resort in Asheville. I estimate we’re now going to be running 7.5 million pounds a year."

To handle the load, Cummings installed an IndustrOzone ozone system in 2004. "We’ve paid for our system in the first 10 months of operation,” he says. The ozone, he explains, uses activated oxygen to activate the chemical process within the wash cycles. "I've been able to eliminate most of the hot water being used in my plant," he states. "It’s enabled us to improve the hand of our linen tenfold, and it’s less abrasive on the fabrics than hot water; in theory, the linens are going to last a lot longer."

The ozone works additional wonders: "A substantial amount of the terry we wash either comes in contact with oils, or muds from the spa," says Cummings, which creates difficult, if exotic, stains. "One of the treatments the spa offers is a peppermint-chilled terry, which means they actually soak my terry in peppermint oil." The ozone, he says, eliminates all problems. And, fittingly for a laundry at a luxury resort, "Because ozone is activated oxygen, all of my aroma issues have disappeared. You can’t tell that you’re in a commercial laundry from the smell at all."

As for the hot water the laundry does use, "We reuse water for the initial rinse, and we reclaim approximately 80% of the thermal energy from our water to heat our hot water tank." The laundry uses TEA systems.

All the machines in the plant were installed at the end of 1999. "I’m running three Washex 450-lb.washers; a Washex 85-lb. Washer-extractor; a Washex 185-lb., and a Washex 250-lb. The smaller ones I use more for food operations; the four larger ones are multi-functional for bulk."

For drying, "I have two 450-lb. Challenge dryers, a Jensen FutureRail single-rail sling system and a shuttle," Cummings says. The shuttle carries the linens to the dryers or flatwork area. "The washers lean back when they receive a load; the sling comes over the washer and opens from the bottom, and the linen falls in. When it’s done, the washer tilts forward and offloads into the shuttle which, by conveyor belt, moves wherever it’s going." It needs only one man to run it.

For finishing, the laundry has two Cissell 85-lb. dryers, two Jensen Centra Roll Deep Chest Ironers, one with a Jensen spreader-feeder, two Braun SPFRSM towel folders and one Jensen Centra Fold.

In addition, "We have 800 uniformed employees, and I do all their uniforms as well as guest drycleaning and executive drycleaning," Cummings says.

Computers help keep the system running smoothly. "I’m using the Softrol system," says Cummings. "I’m able to log in anywhere I can get an Internet connection and manage my wash cycles on all the Washex machines. It tracks cycles and poundage. If I have a machine sitting idle or it misses a chemical feed, it’ll ding on my home computer and I can call in to the plant."

To earn the plant yet more money, "We’ve create a branded hotel blanket; in 2006, it’s expected to go on Home Shopping Network, Burdines and Bed, Bath & Beyond. We’re also creating our own personalized tag linen that we’ll retail. All that comes back to the laundry division as revenue." And though it's long hours, "We’re able to pay for a majority of our internal expenses via commercial work," Cummings says proudly. "As we go commercial, we're working to set ourselves apart."

Quick Rinse - News From Around The World

Commercial Laundry Cited by OSHA

ELM GROVE, W. Va. — Uwanta Linen Supply, a commercial laundry, was recently cited for 21 health and safety violations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The laundry faces $62,400 in penalties for the violations. Eighteen of the the 21 violations are considered serious by OSHA. The serious violations include failing to properly guard floor holes and failing to provide hepatitis B vaccines to workers who are potentially exposed to blood borne pathogens.